Obama Overruled: Little Rock Victims Awarded Purple Hearts

Last week, the victims of the Fort Hood jihadist massacre finally got their Purple Hearts. And now, thanks to the tireless efforts of Arkansas Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman, as well as Congressman French Hill, the victims of the first Al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 will soon get theirs too. Earned through the ultimate sacrifice in the Global War on Terror, it is an award that they deserved from the very beginning. Yet for the past six years, the Obama administration had, for political reasons, shamelessly blocked the Army from honoring these soldiers.

At 10 AM on June 1st, 2009, Army Privates Andy Long and Quinton Ezeagwula were having a smoke outside the recruitment center in Little Rock where they worked. Andy’s mother had just parked nearby and was about to walk over to her son, but didn’t want to interrupt the soldiers’ conversation. A black truck pulled into the parking lot and shots rang out from its open windows. Four bullets ripped into Andy’s body. Four bullets and pieces of Andy’s bone went into Quinton’s. Andy passed away at 10:56 AM. Quinton pulled through but was gravely wounded. At the same exact time that Andy died, police arrested the shooter. He was born Carlos Bledsoe, but was now known as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. He told the police that he killed for Allah.

Our 2012 documentary, Losing Our Sons investigated the circumstances that led Andy and Carlos’s lives to cross so fatefully, and told the inspiring story of friendship and forgiveness that developed between their fathers, Melvin Bedsoe and Daris Long, as they began to speak out about what happened to their sons. Our investigation showed that Carlos converted to Islam while a student at Tennessee State University in Nashville. He was radicalized at a Nashville mosque and was sent to Yemen by one of the Muslim imams of Nashville to join an Al Qaeda training school.

Speaking from jail to an AP reporter, Carlos said: “What I did was Islamic justified and also justified by common sense, you know. US soldiers are killing innocent Muslim men and women, uh; we believe that we have to strike back.”

In spite of this, immediately after the shootings, the Obama administration denied that they were an act of terror. Though Carlos was trained by Al Qaeda in Yemen and confessed to killing Andy as part of his personal jihad, the Justice Department refused to bring any Federal terrorism charges against him. The murder was prosecuted in Arkansas state court as a simple drive-by shooting.

In 2011, while we were working on Losing Our Sons, we arranged for Melvin Bledsoe to testify in front of Congress. Daris Long followed a few months later with his own testimony. As he held up a chain with two dog tags, Daris addressed Senator Joe Lieberman and Congressman Peter King directly:

“It took me two years to get these back – these are my son’s dog tags. He wore these when he took four rounds of 7.62 ammo from about three feet. On it there is the warrior ethos. The last line of it is, “I will never leave a fallen comrade. Well, the Army left him. My faith in government is diminished.  It invents euphemisms instead of accurate language while perpetrators speak freely using the very words deemed offensive to justify their actions.  Clarity is absent, Little Rock is a drive-by, Fort Hood is just workplace violence.”

All the lawmakers speaking after Daris’s testimony, Democrat and Republican alike, assured Daris that they would do anything in their power to correct the grave injustice done to Andy’s memory, and they kept that promise, for which they should be applauded. Yet it took four more years of Obama’s obstructionism, including a threat to veto the entire 2013 defense spending bill unless the legal provision giving Andy the Purple Heart was removed, for Daris to get the good news.

The lengths to which Obama went to prevent justice for Andy speaks to a broader issue. The reason he tried so hard to block the Purple Hearts is that to award them to Fort Hood and Little Rock victims would make it official that they died by the hands of an enemy combatant in a hostile act on a uniformed military man. This administration is simply unwilling to admit that the war on terror isn’t over and that America’s fortunes in that war have gotten much worse in the six years of Obama’s time in office. Administration officials are unwilling to even use the words “Islamic extremism,” much less speak the truth about the Islamic motivations behind the jihadism engulfing the world today. And the administration is even more unwilling to admit that this jihadism is not just an overseas danger, but that it increasingly threatens the American homeland as homegrown extremists are radicalized within America’s Muslim community. The current failure of leadership in the executive branch is surreal. Losing Our Sons and Andy Long’s Purple Heart saga shows its unwillingness to keep Americans safe in stark detail after stark detail.